After the great reception that their latest album “VotIVe” received, Ophidian Forest sat down with us to discuss about the past, present, and especially the future. With their last interview dating back to 2015, many things changed in the meantime and many more are to be discussed…
Hi, I’m Sara from MetalPit! It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to ask you some questions, so thank you for your time! How do you feel in regard to the great reception “VotIVe” received?
Amalgamoth: It was well deserved, because it’s our best album to date. Adding to this the fact that it’s released on a cool Italian label (Code 666) and that it features the wonderful artwork by BlackInkVoid (from Manchester, UK) it would have been horrible to see it fade into oblivion, like “Susurrus” did. This success serves as a confirmation that it was a right decision not to give up and to strive for growth.
What was the major inspiration behind “VotIVe”?
A: I was notably inspired by visits to the museum of Romano-Germanic museum in Cologne, Germany and at the national museum of antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands.
If you want to know what VotIVe altars and stones are, just look it up, and you’ll find the answer. For me it was a matter of seeking clues about local cultural roots and what people used to believe in before Christianity came.
All the song titles refer to (female) deities, most of which were worshipped by local tribes in what is today the Netherlands, Flanders and some parts of Germany along the Rhine. People used to also believe in female entities, often with regard to fertility and prosperity. The Christian church may offer people the holy virgin Mary, but overall it’s quite a paternalistic system. The Norse pantheon knows many gods, but also has a few interesting goddesses, like Hella (which is the title of a song from “VotIVe”). Mysterious and spooky.
There was also a change in line-up within Ophidian Forest. Can the new member introduce himself?
D: My main project is called Book of Sand, with which I mostly do black metal with occult and political themes. I enjoyed Ophidian Forest’s previous recordings, so I was happy to help with strings on this new album. I thought Zaragil’s playing was excellent, with a primitive and old-school sound; my style is softer and more eclectic, which I suppose is what Amalgamoth and Otrebor wanted.
How did you find them? Or did you meet them in person?
D: I’d corresponded with Otrebor on and off for some years – Book of Sand and Botanist started around the same time, and I’d submitted releases to his old zine Maelstrom. In fact, Amalgamoth wrote a wonderfully ambivalent review of my first album in that zine in 2010 or so, in which he spent most of the time comparing the sound to a broken dishwasher (accurately). I’ve not met either in person.
Was there any reason behind Zaragil’s departure?
A: It’s long ago now since this happened, 2015, and since we’ve become a better band by seeing him replaced by D. I feel doubtful about the relevance of looking back on that. In fact, if you look at it, I’m a bit doubtful of Zaragil’s relevance, since he seems to have withdrawn from making music.
So, the reason behind his departure was that Ophidian Forest wanted to grow and improve. He chose to cut all ties with us and we now thank him for that. Providence dictated it had to be without him. All other possible reasons seem petty and trivial now.
Otrebor: Zaragil effectively kicked himself out of the band because of erratic and destructive behavior. He continues to run the original band Facebook page (which he hijacked) which can include “bad” publicity of the new lineup and record — which of course helps to sell the record in the end.
A: He’s not totally irrelevant then, after all! I feel a bit sad, because we used to get on for quite a while. We even did an album project together called Krvorog, which we worked on for a long time, and with pleasure. But when it was finished, he first threw it out the window and next fed it to the pigs! (Made it available for free without my consent). I have a word for that. After he also clashed with Otrebor, Otrebor proposed to look into the remaining rough material that was recorded after “Susurrus” and do an album without Zaragil. That was the best idea in years, and soon I forgot about silly arguments. Musicians must create, not quibble.
Did the arrival of D. bring some fresh air in the composing process of “VotIVe”?
A: Hell yeah it did! We had a few auditions with other candidates during the second half of 2016, but those didn’t work out. First we exchanged ideas with a guitarist who turned out to be too big for his shoes, then came a few “maybe types” who had to decline because of other duties. It was annoying. D. arrived just in time, early 2017. His contributions have brought a greater sense of musicality and texture to this band. It’s not über-loud guitars on every song. We already had those on the debut. This really works better for the band and the music.
With the members living so far away from one another, how did the recording process work?
D: Amalgamoth and Otrebor had done most of the work already on the instrumental tracks prior to asking me to join. So, I added guitars, and put everything together in the mix at the end. I also added some banjo, cello, and bowed psaltry on “Vagdavercustis”. DIY recording gives the luxury of having time to try different things to see what works.
Many think that Ophidian Forest is just a side-project of Botanist; how do you feel in regard of this statement?
O: The answer changes with perspective. To me, Ophidian Forest is a side project of Botanist — I do OF on the side when time and schedule allows. For Amalgamoth, it’s the main project — he works on OF before he works on other musical endeavors.
A: I’d also like to point out that the first two Ophidian Forest albums were released before Botanist started in 2011. So the most accurate statement from my perspective would be that Ophidian Forest is a side project of Otrebor, but not of Botanist. The drums sound similar of course, but that’s as far as comparisons go.
Ophidian Forest never played live; is this going to change just for one special occasion or are you going to keep concerts out of your intentions?
A: For the time being it is more likely to see a Botanist show in Europe.
One final question: What holds the future for Ophidian Forest? Can we expect some new music?
A: Well, if one couldn’t, then why this interview? In other words: yes, you may. Over the past few months new recordings have been made. There are drums, there are keyboard compositions, so later this year there will be more added; bass, guitar, and I especially hope more unusual instrumentation by D. Look forward to something weird, proggy and avant-garde in an old school black metal kind of way! Until then, our album “VotIVe” is perfectly new music by a new Ophidian Forest. Thank you.